These peddlers are selling fake trinkets

So, you are barking up the wrong tree if you think you will get anything authentic from here

May 01, 2023 08:30 am | Updated 08:30 am IST

Know your English

Know your English | Photo Credit: Getty Images

What is the difference between ‘pedal’ and ‘peddle’? (N. Ashok, Vellore)

The two words are pronounced the same way, and they come from ‘ped’ meaning ‘foot’. This explains why humans are often referred to as ‘bipeds’; meaning, animals which walk on two legs. The word ‘pedal’ can be used both as a noun and a verb; it is usually an object made of rubber or metal on which you place your foot. For example, we talk about ‘bicycle pedals’; in a car, we have clutch and brake pedals. In the beginning, this word was used to refer to the foot pedal in musical instruments like the organ and the piano.

Sunitha is having a tough time reaching the brake pedal.

It was difficult pedalling the bike up the slope.

The verb ‘peddle’ comes from the noun ‘peddler’. A ‘peddler’ is someone who goes from one place to another to sell his wares — vegetables, fruit, trinkets, etc. He is called a ‘peddler’ because he walks to different locations in order to sell his goods. Therefore, when a person ‘peddles’ something, he walks to different locations trying to sell things to people.

The old lady went from door to door peddling her trinkets.

The teenagers were arrested for peddling drugs.

What is the meaning and origin of ‘barking up the wrong tree’? (L. Shalini, Hyderabad)

The idiom is frequently used in informal contexts even today. When you tell someone that he is barking up the wrong tree, you are suggesting that he is on the wrong track — therefore, he is unlikely to succeed in whatever it is he has set out to do. As his current strategy is a waste of time, the individual needs to come up with a different approach to get the results he wants.

If you think the teacher is going to postpone the test because many of the students are absent, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

I thought I could win the election by getting the juniors to vote for me. Most of them, however, voted for Atul. Guess, I was barking up the wrong tree.

This American idiom comes from the world of hunting — more specifically, raccoon hunting. These nocturnal animals were sought after for both their meat and their fur. Since the hunt for these animals took place at night, dogs were made use of to track the animals. When a raccoon was pursued by dogs, it invariably climbed a tree and hid among the leaves. It made its escape by jumping from one tree to another. The dogs, not realising that their prey had moved on, continued to stand under the tree that the raccoon had climbed and kept barking — not realising that they were barking up the wrong tree!

How is word ‘doozy’ pronounced? (K. Ram Prasad, Bengaluru)

The ‘oo’ sounds like the ‘oo’ in ‘pool’, ‘fool’ and ‘cool’, and the final ‘zy’ sounds like the ‘zy’ in ‘crazy’, ‘hazy’ and ‘lazy’. This rather informal word is pronounced ‘DUU-zy’ with the stress on the first syllable. When you say that something is a ‘doozy’, you are suggesting that it is something truly extraordinary. The word can be used with both good and bad things.

Twenty cars were involved in a doozy of an accident this morning.

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